I’m An Open Book, or: Why Everyone Can Now Share My Interest In Thick Things

Open Access Week Guest Blog: Professor Simon Kirchin

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In November 2017 I published Thick Evaluation, a monograph with Oxford University Press.* “How exciting,” I hear you cry, “the world needs more academic books!” But, honestly, it was exciting, and not just because my family and I cried tears of joy after I finally got it out the way. Thick Evaluation was the first OUP philosophy monograph to be made open access, certainly out of the main UK office. OUP is adding to its stock of open access monographs every month. The whole process of writing and copy-editing Thick Evaluation was pretty much the same as with any other book. The only difference is that the full and final work is available as a pdf which anyone, anywhere can read, download and print.  

Why publish open access? Well, simply because I wanted my work to reach as many people as possible and I believe that academics’ thoughts and discoveries should be shared across the world. As well as appearing on the OUP main site (link below) it appears in the Kent Academic Repository. OUP keeps a list of who accesses and reads Thick Evaluation from their main site, and I get data every year. Interestingly, even though Thick Evaluation is open access and hence free, my royalties – i.e. monies from copies of the book that are sold in the traditional manner – have been higher than anything else I have published. There’s nothing like free advertising! Of course, it wasn’t quite free. I’m very grateful to Kent for paying OUP money to publish Thick Evaluation open access. Costs change all the time, as does the amount of money Kent has for such ventures. But if you are applying to the right type of grant scheme, I recommend you investigate publishing any books open access and putting in a bid to do so as part of your grant proposal.

Thick Evaluation is published under a Creative Commons licence, specifically a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 international licence. If you want to know more about creative commons, please read here. Also, see the university webpages on copyright, and the copyright literacy blog, or contact Chris Morrison, the university’s copyright guru: copyright@kent.ac.uk

If you want to, you can read Thick Evaluation here.

*Oh, okay then. If you really want to know what it’s about…..there’s an important distinction made by philosophers and others between two sorts of evaluative concepts and terms, that between thin and thick concepts and terms. Thin concepts include concepts such as Good and Bad, Right and Wrong, concepts that seem to be wholly (or mostly) evaluative of the world, but don’t carry any, (or barely any), specific description of what the world is like. Thick concepts, on the other hand, are more specific and descriptive of the world, yet at the same time carry evaluative overtones. Think of Barbaric, Compassionate, Elegant, Grotesque, Ignorant, Just, Thin-Skinned, and so on. This distinction raises many questions. What do we really mean by evaluation and description? Is there a sharp line between the two? Is there a sharp line between thin and thick concepts in the first place: is it really a distinction? What does this distinction tell us about the nature of everyday evaluative practices and how we can understand other people? What do thin and thick concepts tell us about the nature of concepts and thought? Thick Evaluation is one of the first book-length treatments of the topic and in it I argue for a radically liberal notion of what evaluation is and could be. Plus there are a few jokes. Even if you read it open access, there’s nothing like a hardback version – c’mon, people, think of my royalties – so please buy a copy for your family this Christmas.

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